May 8, 2009
Veteran of original No Shame Theatre returns as graduate playwright
Sheela Kangal was an undergraduate acting student in the University of Iowa Department of Theatre Arts at a landmark moment in the mid-1980s: She was one of the original participants in No Shame Theatre, an ad hoc, no-holds-barred theater tradition that has expanded throughout the country and even has franchises abroad (http://www.noshame.org).
Now, after two decades of professional theater work in New York, Kangal is back, again as a UI theater student -- she is a member of the Iowa Playwrights Workshop, the department's Master of Fine Arts program in playwriting. Her new script "Truth & Truth" is the final production of the 2009 Iowa New Play Festival, with performances at 5:30 and 9 p.m. Saturday, May 9, in the Theatre Building.
No Shame began in truly ad hoc fashion, with the original performance, Oct. 3, 1986, in the cargo bed of a pickup truck, illuminated by a motorcycle headlight, in the rain. "What I remember from the very first No Shame was that the truck was cold and uncomfortable. We had Todd Ristau's green truck and Kris Farrar's motorcycle lamp. At one point I had to crouch in the truck in order to wait for my scene. It wasn't a flat-bed, so lying down was a challenge.
"But it was so exciting. Mini agitprop. The fellas couldn't get faculty approval, so they took over the parking lot."
Before long the faculty took pity on the No Shame bunch and invited them inside, where generation after generation of No Shamers have sustained and extended the tradition.
"One of my favorite No Shame characters was an assassin character Jeff Goode wrote for me," Kangal said. "My weapon was my finger -- in other words a pretend gun. The victim would laugh and I got to yell 'Suspend your disbelief' Subsequent to the first laughter (so to speak), I got to terrify all others after. My words were the magic: 'Suspend your disbelief.'"
After finishing her UI bachelor's degree, Kangal headed for New York, where she worked for many years at the Theatre Communications Group (http://www.tcg.org), a professional organization that facilitates communication among theater groups and artists, administers grants and publishes American Theatre magazine.
"I've been an assistant, an office manager and systems manager, and then I landed on Senior Artistic Programs Associate," she said. "TCG is an extraordinary organization, one that keeps companies and artists talking to each other, through conferences, books, statistics and grants. I worked mostly on grant programs, writing and administering funding opportunities for artists and artistic administrators."
But eventually she started considering returning to the UI for a graduate degree. "The reputation of this place is so strong, but I started to realize that undergraduate and graduate programs are very different creatures," she said. "And I also learned that Sydne Mahone, with whom I had worked at TCG, had joined the faculty, so I came back. And, despite the Iowa winters, I'm very glad I did. It's been a remarkable experience."
Even when addressing serious subjects, No Shame performances tend to be antic affairs, dominated by naughty comedy and various over-the-top theatrical hijinks, and Kangal has continued to collaborate, on occasion with Jeff Goode, the UI theater alumnus who is now the No Shame webmaster and keeper of the flame.
But her new play, "Truth & Truth," while it contains elements of whimsy is a more serious drama, including the issue of domestic abuse and family alienation. "This play is an exploration of the family dynamic," Kangal said. "At the same time, it is a discovery of self. It is a collage of life experiences, past, present and about to occur.
"I believe the audience will identify with each family member. They will find parts of the play difficult, as all relationships usually are, but rewarding also, beyond description."
Some of the 2009 productions and readings contain material of an adult nature. Potential audience members who are concerned about whether a particular show or reading is appropriate for them should contact the department at 319-335-2700 for additional information.
The Department of Theatre Arts is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
For UI arts information and calendar updates visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to http://list.uiowa.edu/archives/acr-news.html and click the link "Join or Leave ACR News," then follow the instructions.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, Iowa, 52242-2500
MEDIA CONTACTS: Winston Barclay, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073 (office), 319-430-1013 (cell), email@example.com